Community Barn Mural Raises Climate Consciousness

A Q&A with Winning Artist Rachael Dal Porto

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Rachael Dal Porto with sketchbook on log by Sacramento River
Artist and engineering Ph.D. student Rachael Dal Porto sits with her sketchbook along the Sacramento River. (Courtesy Rachael Dal Porto)

A barn facing Road 102 between Davis and Woodland will soon carry a colorful message for climate action. Community members of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to come out Saturday, March 26, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., grab a paintbrush and become muralists for a day to help create it.

The event is the culmination of a mural design competition, the UC Davis Climate Raising Challenge, launched by the Institute of the Environment and the One Climate Initiative to inspire climate activism in the Sacramento Valley.

The winning painting, “Hungry for Connection,” was created by Rachael Dal Porto, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student at UC Davis. The mural travels along the Sacramento Valley, weaving together imagery of climate-resilient crops, wildlife, floodplains and restored wetlands, and bridging connections among food, clean transportation, community resiliency and local action.

Sacramento Valley mural
Rachel Dal Porto's winning design, "Hungry for Connection," to be painted on a barn March 26. Mural size is about 64 feet wide by 8 feet tall. 

We talked with Dal Porto about public art, climate change, science and how all those things can intersect to become tools for climate action.

Q&A with the artist

What inspired your painting?

The painting was inspired by the landscape of the Sacramento Valley, following the Sacramento River from Mount Shasta to downtown Sacramento. I thought about the beauty of the landscape and our community. I also took into consideration the findings from California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment: Sacramento Valley Region Report.

You study engineering. Do your studies inspire your art, and if so, how?

Sure! As an environmental engineer, my work and studies are completely centered around climate change and the environment. Seeing the state of research as it stands certainly inspires the urgency I feel, which prompted the design. In this particular design, the mural includes aspects directly from the assessment I mentioned earlier, which I pieced through for my studies. 

What role do you think public murals and art can play in addressing climate change?

I think art in all forms is a means to express ideas and emotions. In the context of climate change, there are many artists who use imagery to convey information, as well as to incite emotion in those who experience the art. It is used to inspire change and to envision both the positive view of the world we could live in if we adequately address climate change, as well as the negative view of what world we would — and are already starting to — live in if we continue with business as usual.

How do you hope people will respond to your art?

I hope it will elicit positivity in the sense of imagining the future we could have if we take appropriate climate action now. The Sacramento Valley has such a beautiful pre-colonial landscape, and it provides fresh and nutrient-rich sustenance to much of the country. Using the natural landscape for agriculture and recreation, rather than sprawled development, would be one piece to the climate puzzle with multitudes of benefits. 

painting of river in sketchbook held up by hand with Sacramento River in background
A portion of the mural design in Rachael Dal Porto's sketchbook, which she's holding against the backdrop of the Sacramento River. (Rachael Dal Porto, UC Davis)

What excites you most about this project?

I think it’s super neat that it’s totally local. From the location to the organizers, the donors, the muralist — everyone involved is in the area and has connections to the community.

Communities are often the true drivers of environmental justice and climate change policy and action, so community-led events like these are really awesome. I'm also excited to see if this will progress to more murals done in the future.  

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Thank you to the donors and hard-working organizers who made this event possible, and to our local farmers who grow, harvest and distribute our food! 

Learn more about the UC Davis Climate Raising Challenge at sustainability.ucdavis.edu and register to join the community mural event via Eventbrite.

Media Resources

Kat Kerlin is an environmental science writer and media relations specialist at UC Davis. She’s the editor of the “What Can I Do About Climate Change?” blog. kekerlin@ucdavis.edu. @UCDavis_Kerlin

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